Georgia unemployment rate declines to 8.5 percent in November, lowest in nearly four years

Georgia’s unemployment rate dipped to 8.5 percent in November, its lowest level in nearly four years, the state’s labor department reported today.

The current figure is down from 8.7 percent in October and is a full percentage point lower than the 9.5 percent rate in November of last year.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler noted the jobless rate in January 2009 was 8.5 percent. That was when the nation was still in a full-fledged recession, an economic malaise from which it has been slow to recover.

“Once again, the rate dropped because of continued job growth and fewer new layoffs,” Butler said in a statement.

Metro area data released today showed the Columbus area losing 700 jobs over the past year, with the total workforce at 120,300 in November. The only other metro areas to see a decline in workforce totals were Warner Robins, Augusta and Dalton.

However, Columbus did see a drop in first-time filings for unemployment benefits in November, as did every metro area in Georgia. There were 1,097 local residents submitting claims, 170 fewer than in November a year ago.

Georgia as a whole experienced more than 10,000 fewer initial claim filings. That came with the state adding 9,600 jobs from October. Sectors gaining jobs included trade, transportation, warehousing, education, information services, local government, financial services and manufacturing.

Those sectors losing jobs over the past month included construction, leisure and hospitality, and professional and business services.

“I am encouraged by the continuing growth in the number of manufacturing jobs in Georgia,” said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal in a statement. He has made the recruitment of new manufacturers to the state, along with helping existing companies expand, a priority.

Columbus did experience a severe blow in mid-November, with the closure of the Dolly Madison Bakery on Victory Drive by Hostess Brands, costing 426 local workers their jobs.

The Dallas-based manufacturer of Twinkies and Wonder Bread — mired in bankruptcy — said the nationwide shutdown of its plants was the result of worker unions not willing to agree to various wage and benefit concessions.

The unemployment rates for Georgia’s metro areas are scheduled for release next week. The Columbus jobless rate in October was 8.7 percent.

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